In their first midweek game of the season, Seattle Reign FC defeated the Chicago Red Stars for the first time in eight games, winning 2-1 on the strength of two Megan Rapinoe penalty kicks. The game was quite sloppy, with both teams feeling the effects of short rest. Seattle and Chicago each completed less than 65% of their passes, which often bogged down play when neither team could build much sustained possession.
Seattle also needed to make some adjustments due to Lauren Barnes’ suspension and some injuries, which most notably meant shifting Rebekah Stott to center back and moving Merritt Mathias back to right back. Seattle otherwise used their standard 4-3-3 formation, with the outside forwards dropping back often to support the defense and help build the attack.
Chicago started out the stronger team, out-shooting, out-scoring, out-passing, and out-dueling Seattle in the first half. But as the game wore on and Chicago felt the effects of travel and having one less day of rest, Seattle stepped up and controlled much of the second half, especially in passing and shooting.
Haley Kopmeyer (6) – Kopmeyer only faced three shots on target this week, and the two she saved were fairly routine. The Chicago goal was nearly a carbon copy of the second goal Kansas City scored two weeks ago, with a strong cross from the corner of the box finding an unmarked runner on the far post for an easy redirection; there’s almost nothing a keeper can do to stop those. On the play that led to the Chicago goal she made a poor choice to step up and try to punch clear a free kick, which led to some defensive scrambling, but she and most of the defense had recovered by the time the final cross came in.
Carson Pickett (5) – Pickett probably shoulders the most blame for the Red Stars’ goal. After a shot was blocked and the rebound bounced out to Julie Ertz near the corner of the box, the rest of the Reign defense stepped up to the top of the six-yard box to regroup. However, as Ertz lined up her cross, Pickett inexplicably dropped back to mark the far post while Alyssa Mautz stepped into the vacated space, remained onside, and was easily able to redirect the ball.
She also tended to get beat in the corner and had to do some scrambling to block ensuing crosses or take-ons, which led to her getting megged once and a few dangerous Chicago balls into the box from the side she was meant to defend. On the positive side, she had a great cross of her own in the 36th minute that streaked between two Reign attackers, and especially toward the end of the game she was very strong on 50/50 challenges.
Kristen McNabb (6) & Rebekah Stott (6) – For the second game in a row a makeshift Seattle back line did fairly well in limiting dangerous scoring opportunities. This week Stott shifted over to partner with McNabb from the start, and aside from the scramble that led to the Chicago goal, they did very well to keep the defense organized and deny Chicago many dangerous opportunities in the box. Between them they blocked several strong shots, cleared crosses well, and challenged effectively for balls. Each had only a couple of notable negative actions – a poor clearance by Stott in the 25th minute that led to a long Julie Ertz shot that fizzed past the corner of the goal, and an unusually weak challenge by McNabb in the 52nd minute that led to a good Sofia Huerta chance that bounced just went wide.
Merritt Mathias (6) – Mathias got her first start at right back since the third game of the season, and put in a far better performance this time. In the 7th minute she had a fantastic cross that was just inches from finding Bev Yanez’s boot for the opening goal, and she had a few nice long passes after that to set up potential attacking opportunities. Chicago attacked less through her side of the field, but when she was challenged she generally defended well, other than one particularly bad touch in the Reign box that fell straight to Christen Press, although ultimately Chicago was not able to get a shot off.
Lindsay Elston (6) – Elston had another good game in midfield, especially in the attacking phase of play. In the 31st minute she put a very nice cross onto the foot of Bev Yanez, whose shot was deflected out for a corner. Three minutes later she smartly dummied a ball passed to her and raced past Casey Short, although the quality of her cross that time was lacking. In the 75th minute she had a particularly poor pass in the Reign defensive third which went straight to Lauren Kaskie, but she did well to clean up her own mess, chased down Kaskie, and won the ball back a moment later. At around the hour mark she was again starting to look fatigued, but somehow found an energy reserve a few minutes later and finished the game nearly as strongly as she started, contributing a lot to defensive challenges late in the game.
Jessica Fishlock (7) – Fishlock shouldered a lot of defensive responsibility in this game, being a bit more deliberate about when she stepped up in attack. She was the player most often tasked with tracking the ever-dangerous Christen Press, who likes to drop into the space behind the Chicago attack and feeds off diagonal balls played back across the top of the box. Fishlock did well to limit Press, who had a game-high five shots but none on target. Fishlock also led the team with six tackles and 59 passes, although like much of the team her passing accuracy was significantly down in this game, completing only 61% of her attempts. For a few minutes it looked like she might need to go off after taking a ball in the face, but after she reentered the match she and most of the Reign looked revitalized and more aggressive.
Christine Nairn (6; off 79’) – Nairn had another good two-way game, dropping back often to support the outside backs, taking free kicks and corner kicks after it became apparent that Rapinoe’s were a bit off this game, and setting up a couple of nice attacking opportunities. Her best came in the 47th minute, when she hit a long, arcing pass from the top of the Reign box that found Bev Yanez outracing the Red Stars defense just past midfield. Unfortunately, Yanez’s first touch was iffy and the chance was for naught. She also had a good scoring opportunity of her own off a Naho cross in the 10th minute, but unfortunately her redirection of the pass wasn’t strong enough and Alyssa Naeher was able to smother the danger.
Nahomi Kawasumi (5; off 69’) – Naho had a few good plays near the start of the game, including the aforementioned cross to Nairn, but after that she slowly drifted out of the match and didn’t have as much impact as I would have expected. She still contributed defensively and had three tackles, but her passing was notably down and she was much less involved in the attack relative to her teammates.
Beverly Yanez (5; off 89’) – Yanez moved back to the top of the attack this week, and although she didn’t get on the score sheet, she had two shots and created two other chances. She nearly got onto the end of a Mathias cross in the 7th minute, and had another good shot deflected in the 31st minute. I thought she was a bit hard done by the officiating, with a few fouls against her not called, including a trip in the 42nd minute, and some equally questionable calls going against her. The most notable was what looked to be a 50/50 challenge with Katie Naughton on a 1-on-1 chance near the start of the second half, although if Yanez had a better first touch on a gorgeous pass from Nairn she might have been in on goal and left Naughton in the dust.
Megan Rapinoe (8; goals 58’, 84’, PotM) – There are some games where one player carries the team on their shoulders, and Rapinoe did just that in this otherwise fairly sloppy match. She showed great two-way play all game, dropping back to help the defense, switching play in the midfield, dribbling the ball a lot (a season high 91 touches), and of course, scoring the two penalties. After the first goal she was particularly energized, and showed a renewed urgency to chase the ball and pressure the fatigued Red Stars. Toward the end of the game she smartly killed the clock, most notably on a throw-in near the Chicago corner that she deliberately bounced off a Red Stars defender out for another throw, easily killing 30 seconds of extra time. Her biggest negative this game was in her corner kicks, which seemed to be off all match and were far less effective than usual.
Katie Johnson (5; on 69’) – Johnson was once again asked to do her usual substitute role, providing a target for long balls and applying high pressure with fresh legs. She did reasonably well in both roles, especially in the final few minutes as Seattle looked to kill time and hold the ball in the Red Stars corner, and she took two shots. However, she conceded two fouls and her passing was poor, completing less than half of the 15 passes she attempted.
Kiersten Dallstream (incomplete; on 79’) – Dallstream took over the wide forward role when she entered, and did well to apply pressure and hold up play to help calm what had been a rather chaotic, back-and-forth game. She had a beautiful pass that split the Chicago defense to find Megan Rapinoe, which led directly to the second Reign penalty kick. She also interchanged well with Rapinoe and tracked back on defense to support the back line.
Maddie Bauer (incomplete; on 89’) – Bauer made her professional debut with moments left in the mask, and was tasked with sticking to Julie Ertz like glue. She didn’t have much time on the field, but in those few minutes she did well to pester Ertz and clear the ball as needed.
Christopher Spivey (4) – The officiating in this game was a bit of a mixed bag. Both penalties looked to be the correct call, but I thought each team could have had another penalty. Chicago had a fair shout when Christen Press went down after getting sandwiched between Stott and Fishlock in the 48th minute, but a foul was curiously called on her. Conversely, Seattle could have had another kick in the 82nd minute on another Red Stars handball in the box on a play that looked quite similar to several other handballs he did call throughout the game. He also seemed to have a weird vendetta against Bev Yanez, who was surprisingly whistled for four fouls and had one or two fouls go uncalled against her.
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